Mendocino Complex Grows to Largest Wildfire in State History

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MENDOCINO COUNTY — After burning for just over a week, the Mendocino Complex fires have now become the largest in terms of acreage burned in California’s history.

A combined 325,226 acres have already burned in the Ranch and River fires, which make up the Mendocino Complex. Fire officials say the flames have already jumped many natural and man-made barriers. As of Saturday morning, the fire was 67 percent contained.

The fires have displaced thousands of people in Lake County, many without anywhere to go.

The back of a van in the Moose Lodge’s parking lot was where Jay Michael has been living for 10 days straight.

“It’s better than a tent or a cot,” Michael said.

He lives in Spring Valley, a community in Lake County that in the past 30 days has been evacuated twice, first for the Pawnee Fire and now again for the Ranch Fire.

“They say once it’s black it won’t burn back but I don’t know if I trust that,” Michael said.

His house was spared in the Pawnee Fire but this time around he’s not so sure.

“It burned all the way around it but there’s still dry grass and a lot of trees that could come up this way and it will wipe it out,” Michael said.

Thursday night, FOX40 spoke to a woman and her husband who also went to the Moose Lodge off Highway 20. By Saturday, as the fire burned closer, they were told to evacuate the evacuation center. After that they did not know where to go.

But the woman decided to stay.

“I wanted to be as close to home as I possibly can,” she said. “I have 50 chickens out there and I’m hoping that they’re being fed.”

It’s not certain when evacuees will be returning home.

Seventy-five homes have been destroyed and 10,300 structures are being threatened by the flames.

But at the Moose Lodge evacuees wish someone would fill them in on what’s happening.

“The not knowing, not having anybody come and say, ‘This is what’s happening and I understand you should have evacuated, but you didn’t. But this is what’s happening,'” an evacuee told FOX40.

Of course, some people did not want to be stuck in the situation of living in an evacuation center. Michael Chrisman says he did not evacuate his house on New Long Valley Road when Cal Fire and Lake County Sheriff’s deputies said it was time to go.

“If we would have left the first night we were alone, because they said there was no trucks coming in, my house would be gone,” Chrisman said. “There was embers blowing off the hills so me, my mom and my dad were running around putting embers out like crazy.”

Sunday afternoon, Chrisman says the Ranch Fire burned through with fierce intensity. Not only could he feel the heat of the flames, he could hear it.

“It was a loud roar, loudest roar I’ve ever heard. Sounded basically like a jet taking off,” Chrisman said.

Officials are continuing to issue evacuation orders for neighborhoods in Mendocino, Lake and Colusa counties. Follow Cal Fire’s incident reports for updated evacuation orders.

The following locations are open for evacuees as evacuations centers:

Mendocino College Dance Room: 1000 Hensley Creek Road in Ukiah
Lower Lakes High School: 9430 Lake Street in Lower Lake
Twin Pines Casino: 22223 CA-29 in Middletown
Middletown High School: 20932 Big Canyon Road in Middletown
Colusa County Veterans Hall: 108 E. Main Street in Colusa
Mountain Vista Middle School: 5081 Konocti Road in Kelseyville

The Clearlake Senior Center opened an evacuation center at 3245 Bowers Ave. in Clearlake for evacuees to relax at until shelter can be found.

The Redwood Riders Arena located at 8300 East Road in Redwood Valley will be accepting horses.  Small animals will be accepted at the Mendocino County Animal Shelter.

Click to see a map detailing the fire perimeter, evacuation zones, shelter locations and more.


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